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Posted by David Reed on 09/19/2020

The BAC 1-11

     Back in the 1950's, everyone went jet-crazy. Passengers wanted to get there quick, and were willing to pay the price of a good coach ticket to get there. Until this time, piston-powered aircraft ruled the airlines and their safety record was less than sterling. People saw jets as the answer, making air travel fast and safe. The DeHavilland Comet was built to a BOAC specification for a commercial jet airliner, but other work was afoot. In 1960, Hunting Aircraft, Vickers-Armstrong, Bristol and English Electric merged to form the British Aircraft Company (BAC). Each business had a project they were working on, but the new board decided that Hunting's twin jet held the most promise. BAC went to the airlines with their idea and discovered that they did not want a 30-seat regional jet, they wanted 80 coach seats. The design was redone, Rolls Royce Spey turbojet engines selected and the British Aircraft Company Model 1-11 was born. BAC designed their jet not for the state-owned British airlines, but for the world market. 

     In May 1961 British United Airways ordered the first ten. Five months later Braniff ordered six, while Mohawk bought four. But the CAB fought to keep the American market for American jets, blocking orders for Bonanza, Frontier and Ozark. They were unsuccessful in blocking Mohawk and Braniff, and when they won their case against the CAB in 1963, American jumped in with an order for 30 of the -400 series. At the time, the first BAC 1-11 was just taking flight and the new -300/400 Series were still paper projects under development.

     A crash during flight testing led to the development of the first stick shaker and stick pusher stall protection system. All aircraft today have this safety feature. Final production saw four types: the 200, 300/400, 475 & 500. The 200, 300/400 and 475 all had 89 seats, The 200 was the basic airframe with a MTOW of 78,500 lbs. The 300/400 (the 400 was the US version) had identical dimensions but an increased takeoff and landing weight with more powerful Speys, allowing for more fuel and 50% more range. The BAC 1-11 was very similar to the Sud Caravelle in size, weight and range, but the Caravelle's engines were early technology that lacked the performance of the Spey's. The 475 was the hot rod, basically a 300 series with the 500 series wing and engines. When Douglas came out with the DC9, BAC stretched the BAC 1-11 by fourteen feet to create the 500 series. With the 500 series the range increased to 1865 miles, 1000 more than the 200. Still, it carried eight less paying passengers than the DC9-30. The DC9 had a higher takeoff and landing weight, which meant you could fly short legs without having to worry about exceeding limitations. The DC9's JT8D engines provided 33% more thrust and better economy than the thirsty Spey's as well. BAC considered creating a 2-11 and 3-11 version, but the ideas never materialized. 244 BAC 1-11's were eventually built, compared to 282 Caravelle's and 976 DC-9's. But for operators, the little BAC 1-11 was the reliable airplane that could get the job done.


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